Filipinas, Pilipinas, or Philippines: an Identity Issue?

Filipinas, Pilipinas, or Philippines, which would it be for our beloved country? When the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) or the Commission on the Filipino Language issued a resolution to abolish the use of Philippines and Pilipinas in favor of Filipinas in recognition of the country’s history, the whole country finds itself again facing an identity crisis of sorts. Why this move for a change in name at this time and how, pray-tell can the Filipinos expect to benefit from changing the name of our country?


A Long List of Names

Long before our country became known as The Philippines or Pilipinas, it apparently had a long history of names given by different people in different times. However, these names tend to refer to parts of the country instead of a whole as we know it today. The Chinese used to call what is known as Mindoro as Ma-i. Some historians say that Ma-i actually referred to the three islands of Calamian, Palawan, and Busuanga. Luzon was also called by the Chinese as Liu-sung.

Ferdinand Magellan named what is now known as Eastern Samar as Las Islas de San Lazaro. There was also a reference to the same place as Las Islas de Poniente since the islands was reached from Spain coming from the west. The Portuguese chose to use Ilhas de Oriente since their approach to the islands was from the east of Portugal. Luzon was Ilhas de Luoces while Mindanao was Ilhas de Liquios Celebes.

Ruy Lopez de Vilalobos named Samar and Leyte as Las Islas Felipenas in honor of Philip II of Spain. He named Mindanao as Caesarea Caroli after Charles V and called the Island of Sarangani as Antonia in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza. In time, the archipelago became known as Las Islas Filipinas or through its short name Filipinas. Under American Colonial rule, the  country’s name became The Philippine Islands or the Philippines.

In the 1987 Constitution, the country is officially called Republika ng Pilipinas thus the short version of Pilipinas.

The Filipinas Proposal

KWF is proposing that the country adopt Filipinas as its official name by reason of its origin and history. KWF President and National Artist Virgilio Almario is leading the advocacy of changing the country’s name. He points out that the name Philippines smacks of American colonialism while the name Pilipinas does not actually agree with other existing terms since the people and the language of the country are both known as Filipino.  Others are quick to point out however, that the name Filipinas is in itself a representation of Spanish colonialism.

The resolution proposed doing at least two initial moves towards this change. These are to gradually introduce “Filipinas” in seals, letterheads, notepads, and other like materials; and to encourage the change of spelling in institutions and companies bearing the word Pilipinas. The change is not mandatory for institutions named before the inclusion of the letter “F” in the modern Filipino alphabet.

He says that having three names  for one country is very confusing. He also points out that the letter “F” has already been included in the Filipino alphabet and the change will make it easier to teach correct spelling. This he says even while admitting that it will entail a big cost to effect the change from “P’ to “F”.

Previous Unsuccessful Name Proposals

Almario’s proposal as contained in a resolution dated April 12 has its roots from a much earlier date, meaning that he has been of this belief for some time now. It would be interesting to remember the previous proposals made with regards to the name of the country. There was the Haring Bayang Katagalugan as proposed by Bonifacio, Kapatiran or Katipunan, Maharlika as supported by then President Marcos, and Rizalia as proposed by Artemio Ricarte. There are also records showing at least two disputed names – Maniolas and Ophir.

Pros and Cons

The main point in the proposed change is to attain uniformity and unity in the country’s name. The points against the change include the expected cost of effecting the change, the difficult process of effecting change, and the association of the proposed name to online search results that tend to portray Filipino women or “Filipinas” in a negative light. The biggest question however  is whether or not we should be attending to this issue at this time when so many other pressing issues are crying out for  government attention.

My Say

I could understand why such a proposal would come from KWF since it is the agency that has been tasked to develop the Philippine national language. In effect, it is just pushing forward what it thinks is best to attain such objective. However, given the many concerns that Filipinos are facing today, such proposal may come out as unnecessary at the very least. The changes we continue to entertain long after historical facts have been confined to the books show that our country and its people can never really be free of our history. We have been under so many foreign powers that it is almost impossible to determine what constitutes being a Filipino without a trace of foreign influence.

I actually caught myself today telling my children about Filipino-American Friendship Day which we used to commemorate every 4th of July.  As we move forward, we will always catch ourselves looking back at where we came from. We cannot deny the past. That is how history and national identity are made. Whatever it is we decide to use, whether Filipinas, Pilipinas, or the Philippines, we Filipinos will find our true identity not merely by name but by heart if we manage to work together instead of against each other.



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A freelance researcher-writer who has continuously been in such field for 9 years. Know more about her here.

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  1. I don’t really get it why they feel the need to change the name of our country. The Philippines has long been established and if they’ll change it, they have to change the textbooks too, money, everything.

    • Change always entail expense so it would be best to consider all aspects before making any.

  2. You know if we always argue that now is not a time to bring about change, it will never come no matter what the situation is.
    We are in a stage where arguments, resolutions, laws can be passed at the same time.
    I am so much in agreement with this cause and we have to make the change soon.

    • I have two personal criteria for questions similar to this. First, is it necessary? Second,can we afford it without depriving a more important need? If the answer to both questions is yes then by all means go go go…

  3. for me they should be talking about economy and how to build it better kaysa kung ano ano… ang dami pwede paglagyan ng pera na mas benificial kaysa sa dito.. pwede naman sigurong unahin yun muna… hay naku sometimes it’s really annoying when you hear a lot of want to be change but none of them is for the betterment of the filipino people… sigh!

    • Well, we have many of those that can wait when it comes to priorities although we do have to understand that this proposal came from the agency that is tasked to look on the development of the national language. I do agree though that there are more important things now that need the attention and funding from government.

  4. very well said. :) thanks for sharing all these information about this identity issue that we are facing. indeed, we will sure find our own identity if all of us will work together in building our nation! here in Thailand its common mistake for Thai to call our country Philippine…minus s.

    • It is fine of course to be known by one official name but I hardly think it is a priority issue at this time especially with the reason being offered for the change.

  5. aside from the fact that it sounds weird, most people in the world already knows what our country is called and it should stay that way.

    but i guess they do have good reason for coming up with this resolution. whatever they decide well agree.

    Cheers! :)

    • It would appear that the only thing constant is change.

  6. Oh! these people are just using the people’s money. Enough of this Filipinas/Pilipinas issue, can these damn people think of a projects that can alleviate poverty. BTW sis, dami kong natutunan sa post na ito.

    • Thanks for appreciating the post. I think many Filipinos are thinking along the same line as you when it comes to this issue.

  7. Such a shame that I do not know most of this stuff but thank you, at least I’ve learn some things today about our country’s name.

    • For me. everyday is a chance to learn something new.

  8. Wow, this is very interesting. This is the first time, I heard of this news. Anyway, why can’t they just leave it alone? We are already used to what we have been taught in school.

    • The change appears to be a specific concern of the agency tasked to develop the national language.

  9. Nice take on the various names of the Philippines. I wonder why they had to change spellings anyway. I grew up using Pilipinas and why the change?

    • It appears that the proposed change is for the purpose of using the “correct” name in the view of the Language Commission.



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